A lawsuit settlement was recently agreed to over the 2018 Husky Energy refinery explosion.
A proposed class-action settlement could end a suit filed over the April 26, 2018, Husky Energy refinery explosion. If approved, the plaintiffs could receive $150 each in compensation. According to the agreement, which was settled June 24, the plaintiffs, “Jasen Bruzek, Hope Koplin and Christopher Peterson, and defendant Superior Refining Co. agreed to a settlement totaling $1.05 million, which is pending approval by a judge in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin.”
On the day of the incident, much of Superior was “forced to evacuate for 18 hours when an explosion, likely caused by a faulty valve, caused a fire at the refinery.” The evacuations were required due to the fear of a hydrogen fluoride release. Fortunately, no hydrogen fluoride was released.
The lawsuit was filed in 2018 and stemmed from complaints that “while Husky allowed evacuees to file claims for evacuation expenses — transportation, lodging, and lost wages — as well as separate claims for bodily harm, the reimbursements were ‘skewed’ to people who could afford the up-front costs of a hotel room.” Additionally, the suit accused the “refinery of displaying negligence and cited preliminary reports from the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board as evidence the refinery failed to maintain equipment and that led to the blast.”
According to court documents, an estimated 21,000 people over the age of 18 may be eligible to file a claim. However, only the first 5,833 claims will be fulfilled and each person will only receive $150. A household could be eligible for $300.
The settlement funds will be split three ways once approved. The first $6,000 will be awarded to the three-class representatives who originally filed the suit. Another $875,000 will go toward individual claims and a maximum of $169,000 would be used for administrative and notice costs, including mailers and advertisements. Any leftover funds, up to $75,000, will be paid to the Superior Douglas County Family YMCA.
When commenting on the suit, J. Gordon Rudd Jr., the attorney representing the plaintiffs said that while the case is meritorious, he noted that it may be “difficult to prove in trial as the court said the Class Representatives may need to obtain individualized evidence of causation and damages.”
Other attorneys wrote:
“Such a process would increase the possibility that class members may not participate due to the burden of trial compared to the relatively small individual awards or that class members who do participate lack sufficient evidence of their losses.”
The refinery also chimed in and said it will “fully support the settlement, though it does not agree with the plaintiff’s characterization of the case’s facts and procedural history.” The company added:
“(Superior Refining Company) refutes that it was negligent or that its actions caused the explosion, and would vigorously defend itself throughout the remainder of this litigation…Indeed, the only so-called ‘evidence’ of negligence that plaintiffs could point to in the complaint was the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board’s report, which does not prove negligence and is not admissible at trial.”